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The Guardian view on the election endgame: end Trump’s war on the truthm Editorial, 6 Nov 20

Around the world former democracies are slipping into autocracy. The United States is not immune

Since he took office Donald Trump has posed a grave threat to democracy. His wild, relentless post-poll fight against reality this week has shown just how dangerous he can be. Designed to give his supporters a rationale for their anger over losing the popular vote, the falsehoods raised troubling questions about when, and how, Mr Trump will leave the White House.

The bad news is that it won’t be anytime soon. Democracy in America is rare in giving a president more than 10 weeks of power after losing an election. Mr Trump is using this time to ratchet up the rhetoric to a fever pitch, seeding the idea that society is irreconcilably at odds with itself. This is profoundly damaging to America, a fact that cable networks have thankfully and belatedly woken up to after election day. Around the world former democracies are slipping into autocracy. The United States is not immune.

The fact is Mr Trump will lose the popular vote by millions of votes and only America’s outdated electoral college has saved him from a crushing defeat. The president should be preparing to leave the White House, not be instructing his lawyers. Perhaps Mr Trump cannot afford to lose. Presidential immunity from prosecution vanishes once Mr Trump leaves office, a consideration that may weigh heavily given the ongoing investigations by the New York district attorney into reported“protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization”. Mr Trump denies any wrongdoing.

or months it has been obvious that Mr Trump would claim victory and fraud should he lose the election. He has refused to say he would accept a peaceful transfer of power. The polls, he claimed, could not be trusted. Without a shred of shame, Mr Trump appears willing to challenge the validity of the vote in any state he loses, seeking to undermine the electoral process and ultimately invalidate it.

This is a dangerous moment. There’s no evidence of widespread illegal votes in any state. Yet a fully fledged constitutional crisis over the process of counting ballots is on the cards because Mr Trump is demanding recounts and court cases while conditioning his base to view the election in existential terms.  Last year, in an influential and prescient analysis, Ohio University’s Edward B Foley wargamed how a quarrel over mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania could lead to a disputed result in the 2020 presidential election.

The most frightening scenario, said Prof Foley, was “where the dispute remains unresolved on January 20, 2021, the date for the inauguration of the new presidential term, and the military is uncertain as to who is entitled to receive the nuclear codes as commander-in-chief”. This ends with the US attorney general, William Barr, announcing that it is legally sound for Mr Trump to be recognised as re-elected for a second term while Democrats call for nationwide protests to dislodge the squatters in the White House. It would be better to avoid such a predicament rather than plan to get into it.

Republicans must not be seduced by Mr Trump into manipulating the electoral system, through political and legal battles, to defy the popular will for partisan advantage. The Grand Old Party has profited from voter suppression and gerrymandering to keep an emerging Democratic majority at bay. But these darker impulses have given rise to Mr Trump and an unhealthy reliance on a shrinking coalition of overwhelmingly white Christian voters paranoid about losing power.

Joe Biden looks to have done enough to win the White House. He will have his work cut out when he gets there, needing to rebuild the US government’s credibility after Trumpism hollowed out its institutions. That means offering hope to a country that faces a pandemic and an economic recession. He will have to reassert America’s role as the global problem-solver. Under Mr Trump the “indispensable nation” disappeared when it was needed the most. By any reasonable standard Mr Biden should not have to continue to run against Mr Trump. He must be allowed to get on with running America.

November 6, 2020 - Posted by | election USA 2020

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